Conveyancing is booming, according to a new market bellwether, but experts have pointed to a recruitment gap following the recession.

Conveyancing is booming, according to a new market bellwether.  

The first quarterly ‘Conveyancing sentiment’ survey, conducted by search provider Searchflow in association with the Gazette, also reveals that a large majority of firms are also brimming with confidence about the sustainability of the upturn.

Some 64% of partners and practice managers surveyed at 131 firms of all sizes reported that conveyancing volumes had grown by at least 10% compared with last year, while 23% reported a rise of at least a quarter.

Much of the growth has been driven by clients ‘walking through the door’ rather than referrals, with only 6% of firms reporting growth from lender panel instructions. Greater links with local estate agents resulted in increased referrals from that source for nearly a third of firms.

Firms have remained cautious on recruitment, but the desire to take on more staff is also on the rise. A third of respondents reported additional hires of solicitors and paralegals, while more than 50% did not expand their workforce. But more than three-quarters said they feel ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ about business prospects, with 42% considering increasing headcount over the next six months.

Perran Moon, Searchflow’s marketing director, said: ‘It is heartening to see a positive and sustainable outlook on the market. While firms have been understandably nervous about over-resourcing in case the upturn was short-lived, solid local partnerships and marketing are bearing fruit for high street conveyancers.’

The buoyant mood was reflected at the Gazette’s latest conveyancing roundtable, sponsored by TM Group. However, practitioners pointed to the ‘skills gap’ that now exists following such a long period of retrenchment.

Browne Jacobson partner Alan Radford warned that firms which made redundancies during the recession have ‘had to start the conveyor belt all over again’.

He added: ‘Bringing [recruits] through and training them up to the point where they can take on cases themselves [is] time-consuming. And recruiting at the moment, with the volumes increasing, has left a huge pressure on everybody.’

Law Society deputy vice-president Jonathan Smithers, a conveyancing specialist, concurred. ‘Recruiting skilled staff is extremely difficult,’ he said.

  • Revised conveyancing forms CON29 and CON290 have been published by the Law Society following a consultation. The Society aims to launch the forms on 1 October.